One of the most fundamental issues in cell biology is how cells integrate growth-stimulating and inhibitory signals to ultimately regulate a diversity of key cellular functions, including gene expression, autophagy, organelle biogenesis, and cell growth. mTOR is a serine/threonine kinase that regulates proliferation, cell cycle, and autophagy in response to energy levels, growth factors, and nutrients. mTOR responds to numerous stresses and its dysregulation leads to cancer, metabolic disease, and diabetes. In cells, mTOR exists as two structurally and functionally distinct complexes termed mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) and mTOR complex 2 (mTORC2). mTORC1 couples energy and nutrient abundance to cell growth and proliferation by balancing anabolic (protein synthesis and nutrient storage) and catabolic processes (autophagy and the utilization of energy stores). Active mTORC1 localizes to late endosomes/lysosomes and this distribution is thought to be critical for the ability of mTORC1 to sense and respond to variations in the levels of amino acids. mTORC1 is considered a transcription-independent regulator of autophagy. Under rich-nutrient conditions, mTORC1 is active and directly phosphorylates and inhibits Atg proteins involved in autophagy induction such as Atg13 and Atg1 (ULK1/2). Under starvation conditions when mTORC1 is inactivated, mTORC1 dissociates from the ULK complex, thus leading to autophagy induction. Recently, a new transcription-dependent mechanism regulating autophagy has been identified. The transcription factor EB (TFEB) is a member of the basic helix-loop-helix leucine-zipper family of transcription factors that controls lysosomal biogenesis and autophagy by positively regulating genes belonging to the Coordinated Lysosomal Expression and Regulation (CLEAR) network. Importantly, we have found that mTORC1 controls the activity and cellular localization of TFEB. Under nutrient-rich conditions, mTORC1 phophorylates TFEB in S211, thus promoting binding of TFEB to the cytosolic chaperone 14-3-3 and retention of TFEB in the cytosol. Upon amino acids deprivation, dissociation of the TFEB/14-3-3 complex results in delivery of TFEB to the nucleus and up-regulation of genes that leads to induction of autophagy, biogenesis of lysosomes, and increased lysosomal degradation. We are currently investigating the molecular mechanisms that regulate recruitment of TFEB to lysosomes, a critical step in the regulation of this transcription factor by mTORC1. Overall, our work provides new insight for understanding the novel and exciting role of lysosomes as signaling centers that synchronize environmental cues with gene expression, energy production, and cellular homeostasis. Finally, and in collaboration with the group of Dr. Andrea Ballabio, we found that over-expression of TFEB induces lysosomal exocytosis and leads to cellular clearance in several Lysosomal Storage Disorders. This work emphasizes how the elucidation of novel basic cellular processes may potentially lead to the development of new approaches for treatment of human disease.

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National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
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Puertollano, Rosa; Ferguson, Shawn M; Brugarolas, James et al. (2018) The complex relationship between TFEB transcription factor phosphorylation and subcellular localization. EMBO J 37:
Zhang, Hao; Yan, Shengmin; Khambu, Bilon et al. (2018) Dynamic MTORC1-TFEB feedback signaling regulates hepatic autophagy, steatosis and liver injury in long-term nutrient oversupply. Autophagy 14:1779-1795
Martina, José A; Puertollano, Rosa (2018) Protein phosphatase 2A stimulates activation of TFEB and TFE3 transcription factors in response to oxidative stress. J Biol Chem 293:12525-12534
Brady, Owen A; Martina, José A; Puertollano, Rosa (2017) Emerging roles for TFEB in the immune response and inflammation. Autophagy :1-9
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Brady, Owen A; Diab, Heba I; Puertollano, Rosa (2016) Rags to riches: Amino acid sensing by the Rag GTPases in health and disease. Small GTPases 7:197-206

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